The role played by the social media in curbing corruption has proved to be extremely vital in many countries of the world. The social media enjoys a competitive edge over other mass communication technologies owing to its being anonymous and viral in nature. Often, reports on corrupt practices have provided the starting point for a series of consequences such as the launch of investigation or judicial proceedings. Dr. Arsalan Iftikhar’s case could be cited as an example in this regard. It is however worth mentioning here that in order to be able to act as a watchdog over the conduct of public servants, it is important for the social media activists to rise above petty vested interests and devote their efforts to address vital issues of public interest.
The social media now is being referred to as the ‘Fifth Estate’ which has the potential of playing a more important role than the other Estates. It is however to be reckoned that social media is neither a black box nor a magic potion that will resolve all issues of corruption and will create an environment of integrity, accountability and transparency in our country. An analysis of social networks would reveal that some governments are not only blocking access to certain websites, but also manipulating them. Therefore, it is important to find the right balance between skepticism of the promise of technology and techno-utopia that often affects public discourse.
The research for this paper has been undertaken with the purpose to strive for building the knowledge base on the availability of social media tools which are readily available to be used to engage citizens in the fight against corruption. In case of Pakistan, these new technologies represent marvelous opportunities. With over 6 million Facebook users, 25 million overall internet users and scores of millions of cellular phone subscribers in Pakistan, this digitalized community has all the paraphernalia challenge the corrupt dispensations who unfortunately define the very corrupt public profile of Pakistan.
Keeping in view the above discussion, following recommendations are hereby made for those seeking to employ social media tools and technologies in their bid to eradicate corruption in Pakistan:
Social Media tools should be carefully chosen to make them more potent. It has been observed that the anti-corruption activists are sometimes driven by their desire to opt for refined and technologically advanced technologies which may not necessarily be result-oriented in a given scenario. They need to comprehend that some of the more effective social media campaigns employ simple tools to disseminate their messages. They utilize only one plate-form and do it well. Furthermore, civil society activists pursuing the ideals of integrity should use a carefully crafted combination of tools and technologies to ensure online presence. The most successful online campaigns opt for platforms based on their relevant comparative advantage.
For a country like Pakistan, cellular phones should be used to bridge the digital divide. There are hundreds of thousands of mobile phone users in Pakistan who can be mobilized to join campaigns against corrupt elements.
In order to ensure validity of the information uploaded on a social media blog, technologies designed for information verification should be used. New technologies and software are available which can be used to lend credence to crowd sourcing campaigns. This would not only eliminate chances of false information being disseminated to the general public but would also enhance the efficacy of the social media tools.
From our discussion regarding the theories about corruption, it emanates that an emotional narrative in anti-corruption campaign would be more useful. In order to seek popular support for a cause an emotional narrative of anti-corruption can encourage more participation. Video footages and pictures narrating stories of victims of corruption are more likely to appeal to potential volunteers than plain text.
Social media strategies should be geared towards changing attitudes towards corruption. Taking cue from the recent campaign in India led by Anna Hazare which pressured the Indian government to introduce institutional transformation to fight corruption, similar initiatives in Pakistan should aim at heralding bigger change influencing mindsets.
Superior judiciary in Pakistan should also shoulder the responsibility of playing its role in curbing corruption. Social media could provide substantive evidence which could lead the judiciary to initiate judicial action indiscriminately.
Similarly the mass media is required to lend support to the efforts undertaken by the social media in Pakistan. They should verify facts before jumping to conclusions. However after ascertaining the veracity of the information they should proactively engage in the noble cause of eradicating corruption.